Exclusive: Esrogei Rieger Provides Beautiful Esrogim from Chutz L’Aretz After Shmita Year
By Yehudit Garmaise
Following a shmita year, which limits the sale of esrogim grown in Eretz Yisroel for many who usually take them, BoroPark 24 reached out to Shloimy Rieger, who together with his brother Tuli started his business Esrogei Rieger 10 years ago, to hear more about what kind of esrogim will be available for Sukkos this year.
While some may consider selling esrogim grown in Eretz Yisroel that are approved for sale through an Oitzer Beis Din, after consulting with the Bobov’er Dayan, the Rieger brothers imported thousands of exquisite esrogim that were hand-picked in Italy and Morocco.
“In the past week, we spent hours upon hours, every day and every night, going through thousands of esrogim to choose the ones that still have the shapes that our regular customers prefer,” said Rieger, who keeps notebooks full of the esrog preferences of his many repeat customers.
“We hand-select every esrog that I bring into my store,” he said. “The esrogim that aren’t considered pretty because they are not clean, or they don’t have the right shapes, don’t even come to our store.
“People should not be worried about finding beautiful esrogrim because it is a shmita year. We have a lot of interesting and mehudar esrogim from chutz l’aretz.”
The Italian esrogim, which are called Yanaveh because they are picked near the Italian town of Genoa, for instance, are beautiful, but they do not always come with pitamim, which many customers require.
In Italy, the wholesalers and the workers who go down to the fields don’t bring in that many esrogim with pitamim, explained Rieger, who added that not everyone will be affected by what may be a shortage of esrogim with pitamim.
As a secondary option, for Jews who want esrogim with pitamim, the Riegers also will provide Moroccan esrogim, which have pitamim, but look a bit different from Israeli esrogim.
“Moroccan esrogim don’t have that many bumps, they are much more straight on the sides, and their colors are more calm: lighter greens and yellows,” he said, but as with the Yanaveh, the brothers hand-picked the nicer ones and those will be available at Esrogei Rieger.
Although esrogim from chutz l’aretz may have slightly different textures, shapes, and colors, Rieger reassured that Boro Parkers don’t have to settle for esrogim that they don’t love.
“The Torah calls the esrog, ‘a pri eitz hudar,’ which means that esrogim should be pretty and nice,” Rieger said. “Everyone can decide on their own what ‘nice’ means, but overall, the Shulchan Arech says that esrogim, which should have nice shapes, should not have any noticeable dots, spots, or shmutz.
“The simcha of the Yom Tov Sukkos is about happiness, and our simcha can be enhanced by knowing that we have the perfect esrogim and that we are able to do the mitzvah fully.
“When you have a nice esrog, you did the mitzvah, zeh keili v’anvehi,” said Rieger who explained that in Az Yashar after the Red Sea split, Moshe sang, ‘This is my G-d, and I will build a sanctuary for Him; the G-d of my father, and I will exalt Him.’
“So too, when we beautify our esrogim, we get a certain sense of happiness.”
Starting today, Esrogei Rieger, which is in its 10th year, will be welcoming their many repeat customers to provide esrogim in every price range at the Beth El hall at 4802 15th Ave. from 5pm to 11:30pm.
The Rieger brothers can be reached via phone or text at (347) 871-6869, and they are looking forward to servicing everyone with a beautiful esrog.